Raise the Roof

I have these blues but I’ve got a roof over my head.
I’ve got a roof.
(If I was sufficiently “academic” I’d sit around “critiquing” my roof. You know, the roof is a westernized colonial entrapment. Shingles are manufactured by “the oppressor” and the only proper material for building a roof is straw. People were better and more magical when they had straw roofs.)
There’s some truth to this roof-oppression theme. Thomas Jefferson’s slaves ran a nail factory. Slaves built Monticello’s roof.
The roof in history is not an innocent topic.
I don’t know who built my roof.
I can easily imagine the roofers were underpaid and didn’t have medical insurance.
I am right to critique the roof.
I have these blues but I’ve got a roof over my head.


Someone comes along who you’ve never seen before. When I was a kid we were visited regularly by traveling salesmen. Many of them had disabilities of one sort or another. This was the late fifties in rural New Hampshire. It’s likely they were war veterans. One thinks of the lines from the old song about the “blind fiddler”–“I have a wife and two little ones/depending now on me/awaiting on my fortunes/ whatever they may be/I hope that they’ll be safe and well/as I’m compelled to roam./I am a blind fiddler and far from my home…”

Someone comes along who you’ve never seen before.


My mother used to invite the salesmen to come in and have some coffee. She’s listen to their pitches. She never bought anything but she was kind.

“I grew up poor,” she said. “It wasn’t hard to be kind. But I didn’t need a pig bristle brush.”

The blues are everywhere. In the roof, the brush, the sofa springs.

Leadbelly: “I see my coffin comin’ Lordy Lord in my back door…”

In Dutch “roof” can also mean coffin lid.


You can of course “raise the roof” with the blues sung loud. The term comes from old southern road houses.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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